Central regulation of ejaculation

Lique M. Coolen, Julien Allard, William A. Truitt, Kevin E. McKenna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


Ejaculation is a reflex mediated by a spinal control center, referred to as a spinal ejaculation generator. This spinal ejaculation generator coordinates sympathetic, parasympathetic and motor outflow to induce the two phases of ejaculation, i.e., emission and expulsion. In addition, the spinal ejaculation generator integrates this outflow with inputs that are related to the summation of sexual activity prior to ejaculation that are required to trigger ejaculation. Recently, a group of spinothalamic neurons in the lumbar spinal cord (LSt cells) were demonstrated to comprise an integral part of the spinal ejaculation generator. Specifically, lesions of LSt cells completely ablate ejaculatory function. Moreover, LSt cells are activated following ejaculation, but not following other components of sexual behavior. Furthermore, based on their relationship with autonomic nuclei, motoneurons and genital sensory inputs, LSt cells are also in the ideal anatomical position to integrate sensory inputs and autonomic and motor outflow. Additionally, the spinal ejaculation generator is under inhibitory and excitatory influence of supraspinal sites, including the nucleus paragigantocellularis (nPGi), the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) and the medial preoptic area (MPOA). Finally, sensory information related to ejaculation is processed in the spinal cord and brain, possibly contributing to the rewarding properties of ejaculation. One candidate pathway for relay of ejaculation-related cues consists of LSt cells and their projections to the parvocellular subparafascicular thalamic nucleus. Moreover, neural activation specifically related to ejaculation is observed in the brain and may reflect of processing of ejaculation-related sensory cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2004


  • Autonomic function
  • Dorsal penile nerve
  • Galanin
  • Medial preoptic area
  • Oxytocin
  • Paragigantocellularis
  • Paraventricular nucleus
  • Pelvic organs
  • Reward
  • Serotonin
  • Sexual behavior
  • Spinal cord
  • Subparafascicular nucleus
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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